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North Shore Theatre Company: Footloose: Youth Edition - Review by Jessica Green

Theatre is powerful. We have known this for thousands of years. Whilst a newer variation, musical theatre combines music, dance and drama to create an engaging, thought-provoking and emotional experience. After attending the opening night performance of North Shore Theatre Company’s production of Footloose: Youth Edition I asked myself these exact questions. Was I engaged from start to finish? Yes. Was the production thought-provoking? Yes. Did it evoke emotion? Absolutely. That emotion you ask, was pure joy.

Like its movie iteration, Footloose: Youth Edition tells the story of teenager Ren McCormack and his mothers move from the city of Chicago to the small, Evangelical Christian farming town of Bomount, where after a tragic accident involving the Reverand Shaw Moore’s son, contemporary Music and Dance has been banned as it is seen as the pathway to sin. Whilst we may scoff at the absurdity of the premise, allegories can be drawn to other laws that have been proposed both here and in other countries that fundamentally suppress and oppress, some of which have been successful.

Director & Choreographer Andrea Van Den Bol; assisted by Luke Baweja, said in their director's note that “We don’t do mediocrity.” This performance was anything but. It is clear that this pair had a cast of extremely talented young people who wanted to work and work hard; both in the acting and dancing elements of the production, to deliver an excellent performance to which they did. The scenes were directed with both poignancy and hilarity and the choreography was well rehearsed and precise and evoked enthusiasm which was palpable to the audience. The flips instantly hooked me, the best use of an overture I have seen in a long time.

With musical direction by Tali Greenfield, the vocals oozed an 80’s sound and there were clear and concise harmonies, I especially loved all the ensemble numbers and the quartet “Sombody’s Eyes”. Being their second time musically directing a show, Greenfield should be very proud of the sound they cultivated. 

The set by Latarka Designs was stunning yet so simple with the use of stairs mega decking and a cross made of light bulbs. My only wish was that the primary platform could have been a little bit higher as I saw many of the you actors quickly having to duck under it at times. The lighting was also done by Latarka Design staff member Blake Williams, who framed the majority of scenes excellently adding to the overall look of the show. Sound was designed by Loud and Clear which on the whole was clear and crisp.

Now let's talk about those performers. Angus Devlin shone as Ren McCormack. A well-trained dancer; an absolute necessity for this character, Devlin also acquitted themself well to the acting and vocal challenges this role provides. It’s not an easy gig and at times, they made it look so.

Speaking of making things look easy, let's hear it for Alyssa Abood who took on the monster role of Dusty. They sang every note, danced every step and acted in every scene with hilarity and a talent that I hope we see in mainstage productions in years to come. Their solo “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” was a show-stopper. Their counterpart Willard, played by Percy Kay, was just as show-stopping and hilarious, journeying from a small-town farmer in training to an absolute singing and dancing machine as evidenced in all of Kay’s scenes and songs, most so in Willard's featured number “Mama Says”.

Playing the role of Ren’s love interest Ariel Moore was Evangelia Ifandoudas who delivered her material with grace and maturity. A highlight of their performance was the duet “Almost Paradise” shared with Devlin where Ifandoudas’s voice soared. The same could be said of Sabelle Kotsis who played Ariel’s mother Vi, depicting familial breakdown and personal tragedy in “Can You Find it In Your Heart” was truly moving and brought a tear to my eye.

Undertaking the role of the show’s antagonist  Reverand Shaw Moore was Jack Waters. This was not a typical performance of this role, leaning more toward comedy than drama. However, given the height difference between Waters in comparison to their fellow leading players it somehow worked. I applaud both the team and Waters for this brave choice that only heightened (mind the pun) the overall performance. Whilst overall comedic, Water was still able to tap into the anger and misery when required, proving that great comedy comes out of tragedy. 

With supporting roles played by Irini Ifandoudas as Ethel McCormack, Stacey Swinkels as Urleen, Amira Clark as Wendy Jo, Carter Barns as Chuck Cranston, Scarlett Jarvis as Eleanor Dunbar, Katerina Ifandoudas as Principal Harriet Clark and Olivia Rogers as Coach Andrea alongside a fantastic ensemble, special shout out to Cyan Powell, who was stunning and gave their all in every scene they were in, this show started strong and stayed so from start to finish.

I noticed a few technical errors with microphones and sound. Some blackouts were too long or I thought to be unnecessary and there were some moments where the young actors were not in light. But on the whole, they paled in comparison to all the amazing things I saw on that stage last night and I consider myself a tough critic!

Van Den Bol made a statement at the end of the performance that this was not a youth production. I agreed, 100% and told them as such. I could say something here like go see this production if you “Can’t Stand Still” and are “Ready to Cut Footloose”, but instead I will end with this. Please go see this show, support the arts and support its future because if this cast is a part of it, we are truly in for something spectacular in years to come.

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